Thursday, 19 August 2010

Thing 23: "If we shadows have offended"

I came to Cam23 expecting it to be a pleasant summer diversion, a feather for my Chartership cap, a chance to have a tinker with a few Zeitgeist-y toys. I come away from it better connected, better informed, excited about the future and (though I know not how to measure it) more professional.

Photograph of 23rd Street Station, New York
'23' by sarah sosiak on Flickr


Before the programme started I was already an occasional personal user of some social media, including Facebook and Flickr, but I had been reluctant to really engage with the 'social', preferring to keep myself to myself. I was well aware that ‘the future’ was having an ever-greater impact on library work, but felt intimidated by talk of e-libraries, m-libraries, mash-ups and the like. The Libraries@Cambridge conferences I’d attended had shown me that things were changing, and I could see, intellectually, that this was both true and worth investigating further, but I had stubbornly been refusing to do anything more than feel somewhat bewildered and overwhelmed by the idea of change in a profession I had only recently joined.

I'd heard of most of the Cambridge Things, though I had no idea what Doodle, Zotero and Mendeley were going to turn out to do. I was pretty confident that I'd be able to figure out how to use the tools - I was hoping during the course to learn why, and not just how, to put them to work, and to develop a coherent idea of what libraries are actually doing (as opposed to what technology advocates might suggest they should do).


None of the Things (pace Tim Spalding) completely phased me, either technically or in terms of purpose, although I definitely prefer some of them over others. LinkedIn is the only Thing that I’m not sure I’ll revisit (although apparently there’s a strong CILIP presence there), and several have made it into my everyday life. I’ve not been as good as some at sticking to library use; this table shows that some tools have found a place in my heart outside work.

Everyday life (professional)iGoogle (which I use as a portal to gmail), RSS feeds, Twitter, Delicious, Blogging
Everyday life (personal)iGoogle (which I use as a portal to Google calendar), RSS feeds, Google calendar (which I use specifically for marking the dates of exhibitions I want to see), Flickr (which I already used), Delicious, Podcasts (which I already used)
When necessary (professional)Doodle, Slideshare, Google Docs, Podcasts, Wikis
When necessary (personal)LibraryThing (to maintain lists of books to read and those read from libraries), Facebook, Zotero and Mendeley, Google Docs
Need more convincingLinkedIn

Trying out the Things, reading round them, and growing a list of library blogs to read has helped me to face up to the monster of ‘the future’, and I’m now much more confident to engage with, rather than flee from, the technological age. In my current role there isn’t tremendous scope for developing a social media marketing strategy, but I can imagine a future in which I use Delicious or maybe Zotero to compile and make accessible resources and reading lists, or I cultivate a community of interested readers near and far via a blog and Flickr. Or maybe I’ll re-imagine myself as a tweeting reference librarian answering the world’s questions, with the answers feeding into an ‘Ask the Library’ Facebook group. Or something.

Photograph of the number 23 above some doorbells
'23 skiddo' by Darwin Bell on Flickr

A Surprise

What I wasn’t expecting from Cam23 was the affect on my own professional development. I’d long had a feeling that I was missing out on the stuff that was surely going on ‘out there’, and now I feel like I’m actually a part of it. Finally sorting out an RSS feed reader means that library news is coming to me, and becoming an active Tweeter has given me a sense of what the big issues, and the active librarians are. Articles in the CILIP magazines now make more sense, as I’ve often already heard about the events they report. I’m much better informed, and now have an idea whom I might ask for advice and tips if I’m thinking of trying out something new.

Concrete outcomes

One very obvious product of Cam23 is the forthcoming TeachMeet, the organisers of which might never otherwise all have met, let alone shared any useful ideas, let alone said, ‘right, let’s do it!’.

Future plans

As I said in my marketing post, I’m keen to investigate library Web 2.0 use outside techie circles. (Not that things like the University of Huddersfield Library's OPAC aren’t great, but Old Things really are my first love.) So I’m trying to find archivists and specials collections librarians to follow on Twitter, and am collecting relevant blogs to read, comment on and evaluate (reading the UL’s Sassoon Project blog has already put me in touch with those organising the UL’s fledging schools outreach work). Maybe, when I’ve located it, I’ll also throw myself into the front line of social media special collections.

I also plan to keep on blogging: topics already in the to-day list include Open Libraries, the cilipfuture report, and thoughts about exhibitions in libraries and elsewhere.


A very big thank you to the Cam23 team, who have clearly put in vast quantities of time, thought and effort into the programme. And a thank you to all the other participants - it would have been pretty dull doing this alone!


  1. Excellent final post. And so good to hear you got so much out of it. Your thanks are very much appreciated.

  2. Well done and I look forward to following your future blogging (by the way CILIP member's day is their AGM really but they add in some training events)

  3. This is a great post. I completely agree with your point about feeling more part of things - Cam23 has made me feel more 'part of it' as well. Look forward to reading your future blog posts.

  4. Maedchen - I have loved reading your blog posts and will continue to do so! It's brilliant that you enjoyed the programme :)